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Archive for January, 2006

Wednesday, January 11th 2006

A Fetus is Not a Person…

…for the purposes of using a carpool lane. Check out the pretty funny story.

Wednesday, January 11th 2006

Woo Suk Hwang's Betrayal

The title makes it sound like he owed me something, and maybe he did in a sense owe something to all of humanity in his falsely promising work.

Here’s a timeline of the events that led to the uncovering of the fraudulent stem cell lines by way of In the Pipeline.

At least the cloned dog is real…or maybe not…

Wednesday, January 11th 2006

Bird Flu Bad?

Even as certainly more than fifteen people have become infected in Turkey there’s new research that H5N1 may have a lower mortality than expected.

Two brothers in Ankara, who both tested positive for H5N1, have shown no symptoms. The brothers have doctors questioning whether H5N1 infection may at times take a subclinical form…

This development follows a study by investigators at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, published Monday in the Archives of Internal Medicine, which found that H5N1 transmission may be more common than once believed, but with a lower mortality rate. A population-based study suggested that people who come into contact with infected or deceased birds may become mildly sick, but the sickness doesn’t always progress to more advanced stages.

Time Magazine asks,

Is it just that physicians are getting better at finding all folks with bird flu infections, including those that don’t normally wind up in the hospital?

I predicted this. I know almost nothing about modeling public health crisises, but you have to believe, that the numbers they use to try to estimate the mortality generally downplay those who contract the virus and don’t report it, and thus overstate the mortality figures. I know the estimates they create are very sophisticated, but trying to model the number of people who get the disease but display only mild symptoms and so are never diagnosed, must be very difficult.

How many bacterial diseases are there where there isn’t at least a small set of the population who contract it and have only subclinical signs of the infection? You had to assume such a population of H5N1 patients existed as well, and at least question how accurate the estimates of the numbers of such (in trying to determine the mortality of the avian flu) were, when the media started hitting the panic button.

I understand this data showing that some H5N1 victims do not show clinical symptoms, and maybe a good number of them, is in and of itself uncoaborrated and preliminary data. Certainly avian flu, even with a mortality rate projected downward could still be a major health threat.

Tuesday, January 10th 2006

Customs Opening Letters

It’s hard to remember those feelings of horror and outrage on September 11th. I never thought I’d say that but I am. Even so, what exactly did we trade in on 9/11 for security?

The news just seems to be getting more bizarre. After the NSA admits snooping on telephone calls to US citizens we get Customs opening up personal letters from overseas.

I don’t want to draw too many conclusions from this dinky little news story but it doesn’t look like these are packages that bomb sniffing dogs are picking out or suspected terrorist funds or weapons. And certainly I understand that before terrorism became a fear of every American, the Customs Bureau was charged with inspecting packages from overseas. Still, it looks like they’re just opening plain personal letters and for what? To make sure it wasn’t communication to a terrorist cell?

“Check it and make sure it’s not in code, Johnson!”

This is a far cry from 1984, but I truly believe in the slippery slope argument. The line continues to be pushed back until, potentially, twenty years from now we’re back at internment camps.

Monday, January 9th 2006

Human Behavior

It seems kind’ve obvious but really I could not put my finger on it. Why do I dislike my Human Behavior class so very much?

I really have a distaste for Human Behavior and someone please slap me if I ever consider psychiatry. That being said, it feels like it sometimes goes beyond trying to explain why people act the way they do, to predicting those actions. I guess that’s a good chunk of psychiatry. Especially if you watch Profiler…

That rubs me so wrong. I really do want to believe in free will. ‘Without bounds’ free will. The ‘I have the ability to drop out of medical school tomorrow and travel to Ghana to do missionary work’ free will.

How am I ever going to buy into ‘defense mechanisms’ as anything more than lousy constructs, probably no more valid than what some bum off the street can make up. Even in PRACTICAL use. Man, I sound like I’m 16 and about to slam the door in my parent’s face.

The challenge is to not let ideology blind me to what is presented to me in the classroom. You’d think so far into my education I would’ve reached that point.

Monday, January 9th 2006

Cuts In Medicare, Cuts In Docs?

A new study says that the percentage of physicians seeing Medicare patients has actually increased over the past four years. This despite cries from physicians that drops in reimbursements by Medicare would cut the number of physicians seeing those patients.

There are less dramatic ways, I figure, that most doctors are using to limit the hit they take from poor Medicare payments: limiting the number of Medicare patients, performing MORE tests per patient, and especially limiting the types of Medicare patients and the types of procedures you’ll do for patients covered by Medicare.

Very time consuming, chronically ill Medicare patients are probably not worth cost and labor associated with them. They can be referred to other physicians or to academic and community care opportunities. The same goes for now ‘simple’ specialist procedures. Say an ophthalmologist performing cataract surgery may want to limit the number he’s does per year on Medicare patients and refer the rest…or all of them.

Monday, January 9th 2006


The lone survivor of that mine accident is improving according to physicians in Pittsburgh,

“when doctors lighten up on the medically induced coma in which McCloy is being kept to allow his brain to heal, he ‘does move spontaneously, he does flicker his eyelashes,’ Shannon said. ‘All his brainstem functions appear to be intact.’”

This is a far way from seeing him make a significant cognitive recovery, which would be incredible considering his injuries, but it is hopeful.

Apparently they’re also sending the miner back to West Virginia to continue his care.

Here’s more on the current condition, he’s responding to pain stimuli when the sedation is removed and his liver’s function is imporving.

Saturday, January 7th 2006

More on Sharon

More On Sharon’s Condition:

‘I am pretty optimistic about it. We are praying there won’t be complications, like catching an infection,’ [Dr.] Cohen was quoted as saying. But he stressed that Sharon would not be unscathed: ‘To say that after a severe impact like this one there would not be cognitive problems is just not acknowledging reality.’

Friday, January 6th 2006

Go, Go Gadget Immune System

Researchers at BCM are looking at a kind of supplemental vaccine which increases immune response as a way to perhaps make future HIV vaccines more potent and successful. They claim that by inhibiting the production of a molecule in dendritic cells they increased their ability to activate the rest of the immune system.

Most immunization attempts to stimulate an immune response to HIV in the past have been disappointing, but Chen says his laboratory results hold promise to make current HIV vaccines work better. SOCS1 was found to be part of a pathway that not only controls the production of compounds (cytokines) that stimulate inflammation but also plays a critical role in regulating the potency of anti-HIV immune response. Dendritic cells in which SOSC1 was switched off were able to induce an effective long-term memory immune response to HIV.

Friday, January 6th 2006

Lone Survivor

Updates on the lone survivor of that terrible mining accident in West Virginia. He’s in a medically induced coma and undergoing hyperbaric oxygen treatments.

Carbon monoxide has a much higher affinity for hemoglobin than oxygen and so displaces it in the blood, lowering the body’s oxygen carrying capacity, and depriving vital organs of oxygen.

An NEJM study found hyperbaric oxygen treatments within 24 hours reduces the chance of cognitive disability after carbon monoxide poisoning. Obviously, this miner is outside that time frame.